Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Bipolar II

From the moment I was diagnosed as atypical bipolar II, I tried to find information on how to heal myself. In retrospect, what hampered me most was my psychiatrists' insistence that my illness was biochemical. In fact, ten years later I read that psychiatric researchers had no idea what the causal factors for bipolar depression were, nor how to treat it.

When I realized that all BIPS (bipolars)--whether they come to this illness from mania or depression, and whether they suffer from psychosis or not--are treated with the same medications, it makes no sense. To me, it is like giving all diabetics insulin, whether they need it or not.

In the end, I decided I wasn't "treatment resistant" at all. I had just been given the wrong medication or perhaps I truly wasn't bipolar, and that's why the medication didn't work. It's quite possible that initially it was a misdiagnosis. In fact, I've never read about anyone else who was diagnosed as bipolar II because she/he suffered from two six-week-depressive episodes a year and was cheerful the rest of the time.

What I do know is that the medication I was given made me worse from the get-go. I'm not sure how malpractice is defined but it would seem that if you take a person who is depressed approximately 85 days a year and in the very first year you make her sick 365 days a year, and then you tell her she is non-compliant if she doesn't take the medicine that is making her worse, this is malpractice. What do you think?

If you're bipolar II, has medication worked for you? If so, what works? If not, how are you healing yourself?

16 comments:

GirlBlue said...

I am bi-polar II and had you asked this question a few months ago I would have said no but after having gone off of the medication with awful consequences I now know for a fact that the meds keep me on an even keel.

You see I got complacent and thought to myself maybe there is nothing wrong with me, maybe its all in my head (no pun intended), I feel just fine and could handle this without the help of chemicals. So I went off them and lasted all of two months before my mania came back with a vengence. The problem was then admitting that no matter how good it felt and it felt good, it was destructive and could lead to the breakdown of my marriage and everything else. So I went limping back to my PDOC with my tail between my legs. Now I'm on two different mood stablizers because my mania being such it was that one was having no effect on it at all.

So I guess to answer your question a combination of Lamictal and depakote is working for the moment. Lets see how long it lasts

naturalgal said...

I never really learned the difference between bipolar I and II...maybe they didn't start the two categories until later?
Anyway when I first started taking the meds...I tried it for about a year....I broke from my doctor and that was very hard. He was personally offended and I remember his glare and the look the other way when I went up to the clinic to get my chart.

I remember wanting to sue him for not treating me correctly. I wrote a note saying I really liked him and the respected university that he had graduated from, but that I wasn't getting better...I was getting worse and it was my life and I couldn't worry about hurting his feelings.

Unfortunately I was still suffering terrible anxiety and even suicidal thoughts....So the next doc I got, a woman, continued to pump me up with meds....AND hated my husband.

I had "forced" my husband to change our insurance at this point to see her and I felt trapped.

Gianna said...

If you're bipolar II, has medication worked for you? If so, what works? If not, how are you healing yourself?

I was under pharma and psychiatry's spell long enough to THINK the meds worked for me...they do a good job of scarying the heck out of you and making you believe you need them all.

Upon serious research and reflection years after taking toxic meds that made me worse in retrospect I figured out they were making me worse...

almost off all the drugs now...

I see so many people on meds never getting any better and still clinging to them for dear life as their only option...it's very sad...

what has helped me is diet and lifestyle changes...much more difficult than popping a pill...it all requires discipline...

the only problems I have now are with the actual withdrawal with which bad health comes and goes...it's strikingly mostly physical though, not mental!!

P.J. said...

Hey Susan,

I am diagnosed at Bipolar II, but I've never had a really manic episode. I am on medication - a mood stabilizer and an anti-depressant - and it really does help me. I've been more stable since April than I have been in the past 5 years.

That being said, I still need to consciously make decisions to keep my stress level down, as stress is a major trigger for me. I rely on the meds to keep me stable, but I rely on myself and my choices on a daily basis to enable and promote my wellness.

For me, there needs to be a balance.

Andrea said...

I was diagnosed BP2, but also Rapid Cycle. The cycle accelerates if I am off medication for any substantial period of time. Currenly I'm at 6 weeks for one full cycle (2 normal/1 manic/3 depressive, like clockwork).

I don't know about other BP2's, but I would guess that those with Rapid Cycle probably benefit from some amount of medication, if just to keep the cycles from shrinking.

Andi

Annie said...

Susan, this is a difficult question to answer. Just as self care of different kinds can help some people it is confusing to say what has helped bipolar II. I know you do not see us as the illness but that is the trap of being diagnosed. If the pdoc is of high quality in their practice, they will work with you rather than prescribe according to the label.I feel sad and angry that you were treated like you were. I am glad you have other things that help you be well. It sounds like your pdoc did not do the job of connecting with you. I have rapid cycling bipolar and meds help. The wellness is coming with the other parts of the picture coming together with self care, eating right and exercise. Of course having friends in the blogging world helps too.
I also want to say that in my opinion you were not treated professionally by your pdoc. You deserve to feel angry. You ask healthy questions to work on that reality. Take care. Annie

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Girlblue,
I think it's great that you went back on medication. What seems to be the differentiating factor is whether your medication works for you--in terms of lessening your symptoms--or not.

Mine never did. In fact it worsened my symptoms and the side effects were awful. But, it's interesting to read about people like you, for whom medication makes a real difference.

That's why I'm not opposed to medication per se. I only know that it doesn't work for me.

Susan
P.S. I think it shows great character to know what works for you and to remain on it.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Naturalgal,
I'm not sure when they differentiated between bipolar I and II, but I know it's been at least 15 years--and probably way longer.

You can find more in depth information on other sites, but the short definition is this. According to the DSM IV, Bipolar I, "is characterized by one or more Manic or Mixed Episodes, usually accompanied by Major Depressive Episodes."

Bipolar II. There is the presence of one or more depressive episodes, ad well as a hypomanic episode. There has never been a manic episode or a mixed episode.

Anyway, you can look all of this up, but that's it in a nutshell.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Gianna,
While you and I agree about how medication affects us, and how it clearly made both of us feel much worse--and I would also agree that it's very important to make lifestyle and possibly dietary changes whether a person is on medication or not--I believe there are some people who truly need medication.

I'm grateful I can be medication-free, but if it had worked for me, I might have continued, although I still would have made lifestyle changes, found healthy ways of reducing stress, and participated in all my wellness activities.

For people who are trying to go off medication--because it's not working--I would urge them to read your blog and learn how your Orthomolecular doctor is helping you in your heroic journey!

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

PJ,
It sounds like what you're doing is working for you. And that's the best we can hope for. Also, I fully agree about stress. It not only plays a major role in bipolar disorder, but in so many other illnesses.

Susan
P.S. Glad you're doing so well!

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Andrea,
I only began rapid cycling once I began taking medication. And now that I'm off, it's ended. So, I imagine it depends upon the person.

But it sounds like your medication is working for you and that's good news. Again, I believe part of the efficacy of medication might depend upon whether the diagnosis is truly the correct one.

Congrats on your ability to control this illness, which is certainly exacerbated by rapid cycling.

Susan

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Annie,
Over a period of ten years, I saw five of the best psychiatrists in Los Angeles.

I believe that perhaps the problem--from the beginning--is that I truly wasn't bipolar.Had anyone I sought help from in the preceding 25 years diagnosed "clinical depression" or "seasonal affective disorder," which should have been obvious because my symptoms were classic and typical of both, I don't think I ever would have experienced the problems I encountered.

Moreover, had they understood the nuances of the illness, the important of stress reduction, exercise, diet, and a host of other wellness activities, I could have resolved my issues early on.

I'm only grateful I figured it out myself and am now happy and healthy!

Susan
P.S. It sounds like your illness is under control as well. Good for you!

kara said...

Diagnosed about 5 yrs. ago with BPII during a hospital stay. The year before that was great; I felt wonderful...the best in my life. But I must add that before that I was an addict for 13 years so that messes up the clarity of the who, what, when , where, why, and how. I do believe...well addiction is another story!

Once I got diagnosed, my life has been hell. Had 3 jobs that I've had to take medical leave from each one because of depression. Never really been manic. My hypomania is rage, irritabiity. Rotated through all sorts of meds while never "really" getting better and seeing a therapist throughout. I was even taking a med to counteract the side effects of the meds that "I had to take". Finally, this past year, I think I must of run out of meds to take because I spent the summer with ECT. The ECT doc took me off most of those meds and lowered my doses of what he kept me on. Just this past week, I can say with confidence that the ECT worked. I haven't felt this good in years. This is the first time I can remember not wanting to die. My med level has stayed the same as the ECT doc put me on with the exception of that new all natural pill I told you about. And I can already tell a difference with that: my rage has subsided leaving me to deal with only irritability.

So...ECT worked and the low dose of meds are maintaining. Don't know what the future holds, but I am sure thankful for today.

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Kara,
Thanks for sharing so much about your illness. I'm delighted that ECT worked for you. That's great news. And it sounds like you're doing well--on a day by day basis--which is sometimes the best we can hope for.

Susan

jipps76 said...

I came upon your blog earlier today and can say with confidence that I will continue to read regularly. It's been helpful to read the testimonies of others, and has also provided me with some helpful suggestions.

I've suffered from depression for the last sixteen years or so - half of my life. It had been manageable by making healthy choices in life, but that has not been so the last 4-5 years. I've been spiraling downwards and am desperately trying to recover happiness and peace of mind.

One year ago, I sought the advice of three different doctors, hoping to achieve a common diagnosis. One suggested bipolar disorder, the next was somewhat certain that the symptoms fit while the last was absolutely certain. All the while, I did not fear a diagnosis of that sort. Something was wrong and I wanted to get well.

Since the initial diagnosis, I have made very little progress toward achieving greater mental happiness. I've tried many different anti-depressants along with a few mood stabilizers such as Lamictal, Depakote, Keppra and Zyprexa. Several medications were helpful for a very short span of time, but none have continued their effectiveness, which has left me extremely frustrated. What is more, I can barely remember who I was before things started to deteriorate so badly.

As I mentioned earlier, I have suffered from depression for a long time. Terrible bouts were sometimes triggered by external factors, some of which were in my control (poor performance in school, relationship problems, etc.), but often they were not (passing of my father at a young age). Depression and melancholy were just facets of my life I had come to accept. Peaks were always followed by troughs, very much like an ocean wave. The last several years, however, the waves have come at a much more rapid pace. Daily or weekly mood swings have become typical.

I don't know what to do anymore. There are no clear paths to choose from. I feel very much alone. There are plenty of people that care about me, but none that can help me. My wife does not understand what I feel on a daily basis, which has created a great rift between us. I have two young, wonderful little boys, from whom I shelter my problems as best I can, but I can't do so 100% of the time...especially during times like these when I'm in such a deep valley.

I appreciate the approach of Susan and many of the contributors to this blog regarding mental illness. I've always enjoyed mediatation, self-awareness, the beauty of our natural environment and many other healthy options as a way to achieve peace and happiness. Those measuers have not been helpful to me for some time now, which is why I sought the help of medical professionals. I feel like if I can just raise my head above water long enough I can fight my way out of this because I now understand some of things I need to do to ensure happiness. I have not been able to overcome that initial hurdle, however.

Ay help or insight that anyone can offer is greatly appreciated.

Many thanks,
Josh

Wellness Writer said...

Dear Josh,
Because my post was a few days ago, I'm afraid few people will read what you've written and write comments. So...I'll post your comment in the body of tomorrow's post, write a response, and ask others to respond to you as well!

Susan